Top Techniques for Joining Yarn
Wednesday, 4 November 2020 | AdminBy Josh Walker, Knit and Crochet Instructor
So you’ve finally worked up the courage to knit or crochet with two colours – or you’ve made it far enough that you’ve finished your first skein – and you need to attach a new ball of yarn. First of all, congrats on your milestone! This is genuinely no small feat! But you aren’t looking for praise; you’re looking for answers, yes? Well, look no further.
Joining two separate lengths of yarn can be intimidating to the uninitiated. And it may take some practice to pull off seamlessly. There are a few different ways to do it; some are better suited for certain projects more than others.
First, let’s assume you’re working in a single colour and just want to keep going once you’ve run out of yarn on your first ball. The simplest way of adding a new ball is to literally tie the end of your first ball to the beginning of your second. Obviously, this will leave a knot that may be difficult to hide in your work depending on yarn/stitch of choice. But, for a beginner who doesn’t mind a less aesthetically pleasing method, there is that option. Just be sure that the tails of the knot are at least one or two finger-lengths so that they can be worked into the piece afterward (more on that later).
The easiest way to do this is what’s known as the Magic Knot method. To do this, you take one end of your yarn and tie it in a simple knot about six inches down on your other end. Then you tie that end back to your first end. Pull the two ends and the knots will slide along their lengths of yarn until they meet in the middle.
Then simply trim the tails sticking out and you’re done. You’ll have a good-sized knot to hide, but if you’re using a heavier yarn, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
A similar method is to create a slip-knot with one end, thread the other end into the loop, then tie that end into a slip-knot. What you end up with is two slip-knots tied to one another. When you pull them tight, they close on one another and create a very secure bond (not to mention a smaller, more easily hidden knot).
And again, make sure you leave enough of a tail on each slip-knot that they can be worked securely into the fabric.
There are a few methods for producing a more or less seamless join, meaning there won’t be any ends to work in once you’re done. These are a little more complicated and potentially (depending on yarn choice) less secure, but if wear and tear will be minimal on your piece, they should work just fine. The first is called the Russian Join.
This requires you to take the ends of your yarn and loop them together, then using a yarn needle, thread the tails back on themselves through the yarn’s twist. When you give it a little tug, it’ll all cinch together to form one continuous thread. Trim the excess off the treaded tails and keep on knitting.
Another seamless method doesn’t have a name that I’m aware of, but let’s call it The Twist. I’ve personally never used this method so I cannot swear to its effectiveness long-term, but its principles are sound enough. Due to how it works, it would likely work best on yarn made of natural fibres, specifically animal wool due to its ability to bond with itself (that’s how felting works), but it may work on some types of acrylic, too.
What you want to do is essentially fray both ends of the yarn. You’ll see that yarn is made up of numerous plies twisted together, so untwist them, lay the frayed ends across one another with a good amount of overlay, then roll them between your fingers to twist them back together. Again, natural fibres will marry a bit more cleanly than synthetic, so you’ll want to test it out to see if your yarn will work with this particular method.
Now we move on to joining a second colour that cannot be joined in the ways mentioned above (unless having a new colour start at a random point in the row is your thing; no judgment [a little judgment]). This is by far the simplest method of them all and the one I exclusively use regardless of whether I am joining a new colour or just a new ball of the same. Are you ready for this? When you reach the end of your current colour/ball, drop it, leaving a 10-15cm tail...and start working with the new one, leaving a similar length tail. It’s literally that simple.
“But wait!” you say: “There’s now a big hole between the last stitch of the first ball and the first stitch of the new one!”. To which I reply, “All things can be fixed in post-production!” Once I’ve gone three to five rows, I’ll go ahead and work in the tails of the two skeins, giving them a little tug first to tighten up the stitches around them to the proper gauge. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just tie them loosely (so that my gauge isn’t affected by those loose stitches) and I’ll go back once I’ve finished the garment and work in my ends. It’s simple and you honestly can’t even tell where one ball ended and the other began.
And now, as hinted at earlier, how to weave in your tails.
Honestly, there’s no one right way to do it and I don’t always use the same method in a single garment. For knitted projects, first you want to thread your tail onto a yarn needle, making sure to work only on the WRONG SIDE. Do not – I repeat DO NOT – weave in your tails on the right side (the side of the piece meant to be seen). The only exception to this is reversible fabrics, such as ribs, where there simply is no right or wrong side.
Once you have your tails threaded on your needles, what I like to do is, using the needle, pick up about five or six purl stitches (only the ones that look like they’re smiling) horizontally, then pull the yarn through. Then thread the yarn through the frowny purl stitches going back the way you came the same way. What that reverse in direction does is locks the yarn in place and reduces the chance that normal wear and tear will cause that tail to come unwoven.
I also like to thread yarn the same way but diagonally, again going a few stitches one way then a few stitches going back the opposite way. I’ve found that going diagonally even further reduces the chances of thread coming undone and it makes the woven in ends a bit less visible from the front (not that they’re super obvious in the first place, but a trained eye can see them).
A good rule of thumb to follow is to try not to weave ends in the direction of your garment’s stretch. If it stretches in the same direction as your woven tails, those tails will unweave and no one wants that. The same basic principles apply for crocheted projects; weave your tails in unobtrusively on the reverse of the work.
Let us know how these techniques work for you and if you have any preferred methods or tips for your fellow crafters.
Above all…keeeeeeep crafting!